In light of the importance of addressing the digital divide in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Sustainable Development Goals, the President of the General Assembly has decided to convene a one-day High-level Thematic Debate on Digital Cooperation and Connectivity on Tuesday, 27 April 2021, in the General Assembly Hall, United Nations Headquarters.

The thematic debate will be convened in response to calls from Member States to do so, and is held pursuant to General Assembly Resolution 72/313 of 17 September 2018, entitled “Revitalization of the work of the General Assembly”, in which the Assembly ‘recognizes the value of holding interactive inclusive thematic debates on current issues of critical importance to the international community, and calls upon the President of the General Assembly to organize such debates in close consultation with the General Committee and Member States’.

The High-level Thematic Debate will be convened under the theme “Whole-of-Society Approaches to End the Digital Divide” and will highlight the importance and urgency of political commitment at the highest levels to address the digital divide in support of COVID-19 adaptation, response and recovery efforts, in alignment with the SDGs.

The Debate will also mobilize the international community to strengthen related existing multi-stakeholder initiatives and partnerships, and support the creation of additional partnerships to accelerate implementation efforts.

Civil Society

Civil society representatives are invited to submit their questions for the three interactive panels at the Debate by April 18th, 2021 at: https://t.co/TgIuX86DKY?amp=1 

Further information on the specific issues and topics to be discussed in each of the panels and guiding questions are included in the form. 

Programme

10:00-10:20 am
Opening Segment 
10:20-10:25 am
Video Presentation

Global Assessment of Digital Connectivity by the UN Regional Commissions.    

10:25 -11:00 am
Panel 1: Ending the Digital Divide by 2030: COVID-19 Recoveries to Accelerate the Decade of Action 

Internet connectivity and digital skills are inextricably linked with more education and job opportunities, and more access to information and services. Adaptations to COVID-19’s impacts are accelerating digitalization, and societies need tools to adapt to these structural changes now to thrive in the emerging digital economy. Yet, these shifts risk entrenching the inequalities that disadvantage the digitally disconnected if substantial efforts are not geared to reduce multidimensional digital divides. The transformational potential of digital connectivity for the SDGs will be best achieved when governments, the private sector, civil society and other stakeholders work towards a common goal. 

11:00 am-1:00 pm
High-Level Plenary

Member States are invited to focus their statements on contributions to the overall vision, goals and targets of ending the digital divide, enhancing global digital cooperation, and upscaling digital contributions to environmental action by 2030. In this regard, Member States are encouraged to describe national and regional challenges, policy responses and commitments, and announce partnerships, new multistakeholder initiatives and development cooperation.  

3:00-4:25 pm
Panel 2: Equitable Access and Digital Empowerment: Securing a Safe, Inclusive, Free and Open Digital Future For All 

The digital divide reflects and amplifies existing inequalities. The poorest and the most vulnerable in developed and developing countries alike, who are the hardest hit by the COVID-19 crisis, are also the farthest behind in terms of digital access and opportunities. Without greater, more inclusive digital cooperation and coordination, expanding digital connectivity could risk expanding inequalities between and within countries and economic sectors; enabling technology-facilitated abuse and harassment, particularly targeting women and children; and aiding the spread of disinformation and misinformation that can cause harm and divide communities.  

3:45-3:50 pm
Video Message   
3:50-4:35 pm
Panel 3: Greening The Digital Future: Local, Regional and Multilateral Partnership :  

Global digital connectivity can facilitate gathering and analyzing the global data needed to achieve the SDGs, and the Multilateral Environmental Agreements on Biodiversity, Land, Climate and Pollution. Global connectivity has the potential to greatly increase resource and technology efficiencies and reduce certain kinds of pollution, but it can also lead to entirely new services that require energy and increase pollution, sometimes with novel substances. Governments, the private sector, civil society and others play an important role in determining the balance between the two, including via market incentives. Whole-of-society approaches will be key to implementing the sustainable consumption and production patterns needed to realize benefits and avoid trade-offs. They will be especially important for managing rebound effects from the increased use of digital technologies. 

4:35-5:50 pm
High-Level Plenary (continued)  
5:50-5:55 pm
Video 
5:55-6:00 pm
Closing Segment